Sep. 2. 2020
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Many people often put so much focus, attention and even pressure on what they eat.

And in doing so, they try to eat perfectly, which often means avoiding certain foods that they consider to be “bad.”

Do you do this?

It’s completely understandable if you do!

There’s so much focus on what to eat in the nutrition industry, so it makes sense for you to be focusing your attention as well.

But at Nutrition Stripped, we practice a mindful eating approach that goes beyond just what’s on your plate.

What Else You Need to Eat Well

While it is absolutely important to know how to nourish yourself well and get the nutrients your body needs to feel and function its best, that alone won’t help you create healthy eating habits that you can maintain for life.

While it is absolutely important to know how to nourish yourself well and get the nutrients your body needs to feel and function its best, that alone won’t help you create healthy eating habits that you can maintain for life.

If it did, then no one would ever struggle with eating well on a daily basis!

Everyone would simply know exactly what to eat and eat perfectly 100% of the time.

But of course, we’ve all experienced that’s not the case.

Even when you know what to eat to nourish your body, it can be challenging to maintain it when there are so many other factors that play into your eating habits.

If you’re putting too much emphasis on eating perfectly, it can keep you in the start-and-stop cycle.

This cycle means you’re able to eat well for a certain amount of time, but then you “fall-off-the-bandwagon” whenever something influences your food choices like:

  • going out to eat,
  • celebrating the holidays,
  • feeling really stressed or bored,
  • having your regular routine thrown off,
  • being “tempted” by a sweet treat a coworker brought to the office,
  • getting bored of the same meals every week
  • not having enough time to cook after work

And the list can go on and on!

I’m sure you can think of one or two things that you’ve experienced that prevented you from sticking with your healthy eating habits.

We’ve all been there, myself included!

That’s why it’s so important to give equal attention to how you’re eating.

The “how” you’re eating side of things is all about learning to navigate all of the other factors that influence your food choices.

And we do this by practicing mindful eating.

Slowing down and bringing more mindful awareness to what you’re eating and how you’re feeling before, during and after meals is one of the best practices you can have for finding what works for you and creating healthy eating habits.

And the best part is, this type of practice helps you practice balance, so you can enjoy all foods without feeling out of control or overeating them.

Being More Mindful About How You Eat

Hre are a few tips to get you started with a mindful eating practice that can help you create this intentional balance with your eating habits that will make it possible for you to eat well on a daily basis.

Check-In With Yourself Before and After Meals

Before and after eating, stop and ask yourself, “How do I feel?”.

Determine if you’re hungry or full, relaxed, stressed or emotional. By doing this, you can also determine why it is that you’re eating. Ideally, we’re only eating when we’re hungry, but this isn’t always the case.

By practicing this self-check-in, over time you can become self-aware and better understand your relationship with food. You can develop the habit of being mindful of your food and eating habits.

Remove All Distractions

Mealtime distractions can quickly take away the mindfulness of eating.

Take some time to actively think about all of the distractions you generally have while eating. This may be your phone, tv or even work tasks during your lunch hour.

Remove these distractions and really focus on just eating. This brings the attention back to your meal and you’ll be much more likely to acknowledge and notice your hunger, satiety, taste and the overall experience of your meals.

Eat Your Meals at The Table

Along those lines, the next tip is to eat at the table.

Sitting at the table is a great practice, especially since so many of us can get accustomed to eating at our desks or eating on the couch.

By simply dedicating your table or counter — wherever you eat — to actually eating, you’re using your environment to train your brain and recognize that it’s time to slow down and eat.

Make the Experience a 10 on Your Satisfaction Scale

My next tip for you is to make the experience a 10 on your satisfaction scale as much as possible.

Whether you’re going to make a nutrient-dense nourish meal or enjoy a sweet dessert, think about how you can make it as satisfying to you as possible.

This works especially well if you previously tried to avoid certain foods.

Instead, give yourself permission to enjoy them, but be very intentional about how you enjoy them.

Take sweets for example.

One of my members of my membership program often had meetings where cookies, cupcakes, or other sweet things were brought in. Trying to be balanced, she would have one of those things and found herself having these things most days of the week.

But after practicing mindful eating, she realized that this wasn’t the most satisfying way to enjoy those foods. So instead, she decided to follow this practice of making it a 10. Now she still gives herself permission to enjoy sweets, but she’s more intentional about it.

She enjoys her favorite homemade baked goods on the weekend or when going out to eat rather than mindlessly eating a store-bought cookie while working.

It’s little shifts like this that can really transform your thinking around your experience with food.

Nourish Your Body Well

Another mindful eating practice is to nourish your body and make your meals tastier by eating a variety of foods. A simple framework I use is the Foundational Five.

The Foundational Five is my simple system of ensuring you’re nourishing your physical body throughout your day by eating an abundance of plant-based and whole foods. The five includes protein, non-starchy carbohydrates, starchy carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a flavor factor.

When you eat the Foundational Five, also change up the colors and textures of each element. This helps to ensure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Next, make sure you’re using all of your senses to experience your food.

We’re meant to experience our food; the way the food tastes, how it feels, what it looks like and how it smells all contribute to the experience of eating.

When we engage all of our senses and really experience our food, we’re mindful and present at that moment.

So now you understand why eating perfect or avoiding certain foods isn’t necessary to eat healthy, and you have 5 tips to support you in learning how to practice balance with your eating.